As reported in Tuesday’s New York Times, Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering changing the state’s constitution to legalize commercial casinos in the state. The Empire State already has five tribal casinos.
The governor cites competition from neighboring states as a reason to add more casinos. This is an argument we have heard many times. As this debate moves forward, opponents of predatory gambling need to remind Governor Cuomo and other elected officials in the state that casinos do not bring about economic prosperity.
States with casinos have not lowered their taxes and according to the recent national report by The Rockefeller Institute, it has made their budget problems even worse. The Albany, New York-based think tank revealed that predatory gambling costs more than the revenue it brings in, leaving those citizens who rarely gamble to pay the bill.
Let’s hope Governor Cuomo does his due diligence and analyzes the data that shows that the government policy of casinos and lotteries has a been a complete failure. Read the full story below.
The New York Times
Cuomo Weighs Ending State Limits on Casino Gambling
By THOMAS KAPLAN
Published: August 9, 2011
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, suggesting it was time for the state to “come to grips” with the proliferation of gambling in New York and neighboring states, said Tuesday that he was weighing the legalization of commercial, non-Indian casinos in New York State.
Mr. Cuomo’s comments come as the state’s racetrack casinos, which have electronic slot machines but not the more lucrative table games, prepare to mount a high-profile lobbying effort to push the State Legislature to let them expand into full-fledged casinos.
The governor said his administration was “actively” investigating whether full-scale commercial gambling should be legalized in the state, a move that would quite likely draw significant public disagreement but could offer huge financial benefits for the state and be a source of upstate jobs.
“It’s really not an issue anymore of ‘Well, if we don’t officially sanction it as a government, it’s not going to happen,’ ” Mr. Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany. “It is happening.”
“So now you have to go to the second step,” he added. “If there is going to be gaming, how should it be done? And that issue, that question, is an important question for the state.”
New York has five Indian-run casinos, all of them upstate. Limited electronic gambling is permitted at so-called racinos at eight tracks and is set to begin at a ninth, the Aqueduct racetrack in Queens, later this year.
The State Constitution prohibits other forms of commercial gambling, and amending the Constitution would be the biggest roadblock. Passing an amendment requires approval from two consecutive Legislatures, followed by a public referendum.
But New York State would stand to gain significant revenue from lifting the ban. The state expects to earn $684 million this year from its share of the revenue from the racinos; allowing them to expand into full-blown casinos would substantially raise that figure.
Seeking to allow the racinos to expand, or for new commercial casinos to be built, would most likely draw stiff opposition from opponents of legalized gambling and from the state’s Indian tribes, who would see their gambling facilities face more competition.
The Oneida Indian Nation, which operates the Turning Stone casino in the Mohawk Valley, noted the relatively cumbersome process to amend the Constitution and suggested it was hardly a certain avenue for the Cuomo administration to pursue.
Mark F. Emery, an Oneida spokesman, said the Cuomo administration might instead “bring gaming to the state promptly and assuredly under already-existing laws by working closely with its in-state Indian nations to enjoy immediate revenue sharing, which would benefit the entire state.”
Previous governors grappled with what to do about casinos. Lawmakers in the 1990s began the process of approving an amendment to end the ban on gambling, but support for the proposal evaporated before it could pass the Legislature a second time.
More recently, a measure to allow five commercial casinos to open upstate passed the State Senate last year but was not considered in the State Assembly, and the proposal was not brought up in the legislative session that ended in June.
But lawmakers are planning to make another push beginning in the legislative session that starts in January, and they have said Cuomo administration staff members have privately signaled an openness to considering a constitutional amendment that would allow for commercial casinos.
State Senator John J. Bonacic, a Republican from Orange County, is chairman of two committees that deal with casino issues — the Judiciary Committee and the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. He has scheduled hearings for September to discuss how to proceed on the issue of casinos.
“They haven’t been giving me any direction,” Mr. Bonacic said Tuesday of the governor’s office, “but at the same time they haven’t discouraged me.”
Mr. Bonacic said he was heartened by Mr. Cuomo’s interest in considering the possibility of commercial casinos, as was Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow, a Democrat from Westchester County who is chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee.
“I’m hoping that he sees it in a positive light and we can move forward,” Mr. Pretlow said, “because I think it would be an economic boon for the State of New York.”
In June, Mr. Cuomo appointed Bennett Liebman, a former commissioner of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, as his gambling adviser; aides to the governor said Mr. Liebman had been given the task of undertaking a broad review of all gambling in the state, including horse racing, Indian-run casinos and the lottery.
The nine racetrack casinos, meanwhile, have banded together to start the New York Gaming Association, which is expected to begin advocating for a constitutional amendment later this year.
Among its backers is Genting New York, a subsidiary of the largest gambling company in England and Southeast Asia, which paid a $380 million upfront licensing fee last year for the right to install 4,525 video slot machines at the Aqueduct racetrack, which it would like to turn into a full-fledged casino.